Science experiments: hovercrafts
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By John Davisteacher and freelance writer

Conduct a simple science experiment to create a working model hovercraft.


The hovercraft was the brainchild of the English inventor Christopher Cockerell (1910-1999). He experimented with craft of all kinds that could be made to go faster. His first working model of a hovercraft, made out of balsa wood, was patented in 1955. Four years later the SRN1, the Saunders Roe Nautical 1, crossed the English Channel from Calais to Dover. Cockerell, who was knighted in 1969, went on to develop other applications of the air cushion principle.

Hovercrafts are used today not only to carry passengers on water and for sport but also by rescue organisations and the military to travel over smooth terrain like swamps and mudflats. The cushion of air principle has been applied successfully to other machines like floor cleaners, lawn mowers and cricket ground covers. After some initial trials and successes, hover trains have been largely abandoned on the grounds of cost.

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